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HollaDay Jam turns up heat at the Garden

HollaDay Jam? Make that holiday vocal jam. The hip-hop and R&B-themed tour wasn't just a yuletide urban music festival. It was vocal jamnastics set to razored beats and samples.

This lineup of urban young guns hit the TD Banknorth Garden last night and was to have included the year's hottest R&B newcomer, Chris Brown. But the 16-year-old Virginia native reportedly arrived late, missing his early set slot.

The tour kicked off Thursday in Rosemont, Ill., before hitting Detroit and Boston, and will also visit Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and New York before wrapping in Atlanta.

Impressive opener Trey Songz had the packed house screaming from the start. That ear-splitting approval rating was accelerated when Songz stripped down to his low-slung jeans. But his voice was as toned as his discreetly tattooed torso. He worked hard, and succeeded, in investing the clinical backdrop of beats and samples with soul.

In another Nelly moment (was it really that hot in there?), Marques Houston, a 24-year-old singer from Los Angeles, did a striptease during his set. But then Houston's ''Naked" was a big hit this year, so what's a guy going to do but get nearly naked with the help of two lingerie-clad women while singing it? (A pelvic level screen prevented full inspection of whether any nudity laws were broken.)

Black-leather clad Ciara (who has four Grammy nominations) resurrected the Jackson ghost, Janet that is, cooing softly while strutting like an android. But unlike Jackson and her HollaDay touring pals, Ciara kept her zippers and studs fastened and, with the aid of a troupe of dancers, pulled off one of the punchiest sets of the night.

Former B2K member Omarion, whose swooning style has made him a heartthrob, pulled out the dancers, the pyro, and the star power. And, while performing his big hit ballad ''O" and leading the audience in a warm sing-along, he pulled off his T-shirt too.

Backed by Dem Franchize Boyz, who added turntable tricks, beats, and rhymes, onetime child hip-hop star and movie moonlighter Bow Wow, formerly known as Lil' Bow Wow, headlined with a set that heavily pushed his long-awaited new disc, ''Wanted," and squeezed in catchy oldies such as ''Bounce With Me."

One thing was clear; no performer on this showcase took his or her position as possible future urban icon for granted. Brown was possibly kicking himself.

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